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Shepherding those pesky lentils into a line – er, I mean pie.

music to read by :: Shepherd (Genesis)

One of our favourite cold weather foods, here at casa vassal, is my veggie shepherd’s pie. Why? Because it is limitless in it’s versatility, and can be customized for a variety of dietary needs.

Except for meat eaters, of course. Then it just becomes regular ol’ shepherd’s pie. And that’s not what it’s all about today.

I’m pretty sure I started out, eons ago, with a recipe. Something tells me it might have been from a magazine, but I’m not sure anymore. I work this shepherd’s pie like most my meals, doing a little something I like to call “cooking”; using what I have on hand, and flavouring to taste.

So go, now! and grab yourself some brown lentils. Do they *have* to be brown? No. Go wild! Use the green ones! Mix them up, if you’re feeling crazy! Continue reading

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Sometimes, simple is best :: rice and falafel

music to read by :: Piya Re (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan)

Many moons ago, we found our way to Egypt and spent some time hanging in Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, with a sail up the Nile, sleeping on a felucca, not to mention swimming. Yes, we swam in the Nile. Yes, it was February. Yes, it was cold. And yes, it was clean, as we were not swimming anywhere near a large urban center. And frankly, we stank.

Giza Plateau, photo par moi

We ate in fancy restaurants, hotel restaurants, were cooked for by the captain of the felucca, ate on a barge, and even ventured into a Kentucky Fried Chicken run by the blind. For the record, it was the best chicken I ever ate.

But my favourite meal was some type of  ‘peasant’ food consisting of rice, lentils, beans (?), sauce, hot sauce, and who knows what else. We ate it most days in Cairo, tho getting it meant running across 8 lanes of Egyptian traffic, waiting in line with locals, and then pointing, as the workers didn’t speak english. Our hotel staff laughed at us as they could not believe we north americans would rather eat ‘peasant’ food instead of in one of the more trendy restaurants.

Sometimes, simple food is just better food. Continue reading

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mmmmmmmmmmmKorma (or “can’t yell, my mouth is full”)

In 2010, my family and I spent approximately 4 weeks in India, mostly in Delhi, but with visits to Jaipur, Agra, and some small communities in between. We even managed to spend a lovely morning visiting with and learning about Bulbuls, the Indian equivalent of Brownies, not the sopngbird.

While not untravelled, I experienced a bit of culture shock, stress of over crowding, and the inevitable food issues that arise from travelling with a then 7/8 year old.

The food was delicious, plentiful, fresh, and cheap, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much pizza on on trip before.

Chicken Korma, with Paneer

The Paneer :: So easy! I don’t have a cheese press, so my paneer isn’t as “solid” as the store bought stuff. As a result, I add mine in the last 5 minutes of cooking the curry. But, oh my. Yum! Continue reading

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Some days you just have to yell, “it’s pasta makin’ time!”

Yesterday, I discovered that I have been brainwashed by the pasta powers that be; pasta must come in certain sizes, shapes, and … well. that’s it! Sure, you can make your own pasta, but you’d better make sure you slice it to look like linguini, or stuff it to make ravioli.

Now, I have gone to the fresh pasta shop down the road, branched out and gone all crazy with a star shaped stuffed pasta, but folks, it was stuffed, so I was okay. I did not offend the pasta gods.

Then I had a kid.

And now she is nine.

She knows not of these pasta gods and thinks everything should be fun with an exclamation mark with italics. Oh yeah. and all uppercase.

FUN!

If her birth had not been witnessed by a room full of people wondering why I wasn’t in the hospital, it would be hard to believe she was mine.

flour and eggs

9 y/o Inspired Not Stuffed Shaped Fresh Pasta

  • approximately 1 3/4 cups flour (I mixed all purpose and semolina)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • water – on the side to add if dough is a little dry

Pile the flour, creating a divot in the centre. Add eggs and oil and start mixing with your hands, slowly pushing the flour into the eggs.

add eggs and oil

Add water (by drop full) if necessary. Kneed until a nice smooth ball. Cover the dough with plastic and set aside for approximately an hour.

During the waiting period, I made a basic ground beef/tomato sauce.

resting dough

After the dough has rested, grab small batches and roll out onto a floured surface. Try to get the dough as thin as possible.

Cut into shapes! FUN! We used our tiny cheese cutters, which included stars, hearts, peppers, and flowers.

I did take a picture of the shapes laying out on a cookie sheet, but it (along with the final “look what we get to eat!” picture) seems to have disappeared off of  my phone.

fun shaped pasta

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add salt and a wee bit of olive oil. Add the pasta and cook for approximately 3-5 minutes, depending on how thick your shapes are. They are pretty much done when all is floating.

I feel liberated now. I’m not sure I will be able to make spaghetti, or linguini shaped pasta anymore. I’ll give it the ol’ college try, but I’m guessing that most of our pasta will look like this.

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Some days you just have to yell, “it’s chicken soup makin’ time!”

While last week was exceptionally warm (ok. stupid hot), this week has been seasonal and sunny, and Sunday, inparticular, called for soup.

And a slipper.

Yep. Sunday I knitted a slipper.

You see, last September I got this bright idea for a huge  basket of mis-matched slippers for guests to wear while visiting, as we keep our house on the cool side and have all hardwood flooring. The only problem with this grand plan was my complete and utter inability to knit.

Solution? Put it out on Facebook and then meet in a pub and learn! After two lessons I was comfortable enough to attempt basic slippers and off I went. (the process of me learning is a whole other storey. slip knot? nope. can’t tie one)

I now have the basket of slippers, of varying sizes and colours, but on Sunday I had to finish a “pair” for me. The time spent babysitting chicken noodle soup seem like a good time to me.

making basic broth

I started early in the day, making the broth from scratch. Now, I like a simple, basic, broth as well as one that is not watery – but I don’t like to go as far as a “cream” soup.

I simmered the bones for a few hours, until the meat pretty much fell off with a mere poke. I didn’t add anything else during this process, just water and bones.

Once the basic broth was ready, I drained the liquid and returned it to a pot, putting the bones/meat aside for later. I then added two cleaned chopped potatoes (white or sweet, I’ve made it with both) and a large pealed and chopped carrot, some ground pepper, some onion, and some garlic greens.

I let this simmer for a couple more hours; I kitted and cleaned in between checks. Once  the potatoes and carrots were cooked through, and flavours were all mixed together, I used my immersion blender and blended the crap out of the pot’s contents, resulting in a nice thick chicken/vegetable broth. I then added some oregano and thyme, a bit more pepper, and a dollop of balsamic vinegar. I also picked over the bones and added chunks of chicken.

About an hour before dinner I added a couple of handfuls of egg noodles. At this point, my daughter wandered in and asked if we could add dumplings.

Uhm.

Yeah!

making dumplings!

But I told her she had to make them. After the 9 y/o squealing had subsided, she dug out the recipe card and got to work. 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp of baking flour,  1tbsp butter, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup milk later, she was a mixing fool and I had a flour covered kitchen.

We brought the soup up to a slow boil and she dropped the dough in using an ice cream scoop.

cooking dumplings!

It took a bit for me to convince her that the dumplings would “grow”, but she finally agreed that maybe I would know and dropped small balls in. We returned the soup to a simmer and let it go for 20 minutes.

Then we ate it all!

I thought I took a picture of the final product, but I guess not. We were probably too excited to eat.

But I can show you my pair of mis-matched slippers, made with double yarn for that extra comfy feel.my mis-matched pair!

**disclaimer :: I do know how to knit a pair of slippers, I just choose not to!**